(Editor's Note: Today's Guest Writer is Bill Elliff. His blog series on the Asbury University revival was posted first on his blog site HERE. They are posted on The Stand with his permission.)
All of us are drawn like a magnet to what we think will give us satisfaction. Some of these attractions are overtly sinful (moral impurity, for instance), while others seem mindless and harmless. But, when anything is a substitute for God, it becomes deadly to the spiritual life. The smallest misdirection can become a disastrous detour from God. Satan’s closet is filled with detour signs.
A SOLITARY DESIRE
The Psalmist had been momentarily confused (Psalm 73). Worldly men looked like they had the best. His religious life seemed tedious and unfruitful.
But he experienced a glorious revival. He “came into the sanctuary,” and was pulled back into clarity. He saw that a godless man’s end is disastrous. And suddenly for the Psalmist, all the world’s alluring treasures paled in comparison to God Himself.
Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good. I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works (Psalm 73:25-28).
But look deeply into the Psalmist’s heart. He speaks of the experiential. Not only did he believe in God. He longed for and experienced the “nearness” of God. He was delighting in genuine intimacy with God. He found what he longed for, not in knowing about God, but knowing God.
This nearness did not happen accidentally. “I have made the Lord God my refuge,” the Psalmist said. It was a choice. Countless gods called for his allegiance, but he had seen the beauty of the Lord in the sanctuary and had deliberately chosen Him. Like Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and chose “the good part that will not be taken away from her,” the Psalmist had turned his affections in one direction.
James, the brother of Jesus, lays this responsibility squarely on our shoulders also. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). God promises intimacy, but this promise is contingent upon our approach.
This is the heart of revival, both personal and corporate. Revival indicates two things have occurred: a drifting and a return. We have wandered from Christ. Our hearts have become cold and lifeless. To be revived is to be brought back to that which is life itself. It’s not a return to a program or a discipline. It is to fall in love with Jesus all over again. It is a repentance unto Him.
I spoke to a pastor today who is faithful and capable. He's been doing a good job at his church. But in the last two weeks, hearing of God's outpouring at Asbury, he has sought the Lord and God has met him in great measure. He cannot believe the difference. He told me that everything is changing in his life, his marriage, and his work. He tried to explain the glory of God's presence in his truck during a two-hour drive this morning and his eyes filled with tears and he could not speak.
He told me that last week, there was an area of sin that he indulged in and the Spirit prompted him to confess it and repent. But he refused thinking it was insignificant. The next day, God's presence seemed nowhere to be found until he resolved the matter. He could not bear the thought of living anymore without the conscious awareness of God's presence. He is drawing near, and so is His gracious Father.
THE ALL OF GOD
My brother, Tom, once captured this truth in a sentence.
“If a man can ever come to the place in his life where all he wants is all God wants, then all his life he’ll have all he wants, and God will have all He wants of him.”
The man who has come to this place is richer than any billionaire, for all his life he will have Christ. He doesn’t need the world’s goods, for God is his portion. Like Paul, he “has nothing yet possesses all things.”
God doesn’t just give this man strength; He IS his strength. His protection is secure, for God is his refuge. His purpose will be delightful, for he has returned to that for which he was created and delights in the joy of telling others of all God’s works. Stars were created for the sky and fish for the sea. Man was made to experience and glorify God, and we find our joyful purpose nowhere else.
In the glorious seasons when God sends corporate revival to His people, (as He has done at Asbury and is doing in some measure across the nation,) why do you see people bowing low in worship and standing with arms raised in glorious praise? Why the awe? Why the unashamed testimonies? Why the tears and deep embraces? In His grace, God has revealed Himself, and needy seekers have dropped the world’s substitutes at the altar and run to the One who alone delights them.
But we must not be spectators. Have you been distracted? Drawn away from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ alone? Are you standing with arms folded, observing the revived, but unwilling to let God search your own heart? Perhaps even criticizing them for their exuberance? Then run into the sanctuary with the Psalmist. Join the revived. Seek Christ and you will find Him. And in the finding, you will have everything.